The trampled poppy

It is 14th November 2018, just three days after the Remembrance Sunday where we promise not to forget the loss of lives in the 1914-18 and other wars.

I am woken by Radio 3:

“The headlines today …

  • Half of the nation of Yemen is on the verge of starvation due to war.
  • Melania Trump is upset at where she sat on an aircraft.

And now some Mozart.”

Unusually I have noticed the incongruity and am prompted to draw attention to it in a blog post.  Normally, like you, I would just get on with my day, not sparing another thought to the fact that half of a nation is on the verge of starvation.

It seems that the poppies have already been trampled in the dirt.

How can any of us claim to be without sin?  Isn’t the correct response to our  hard-heartedness that we humbly admit that we are grossly selfish and undeserving?

Yet despite this, we are still given the opportunity to live purposeful lives.  We believe there is some purpose in life, and in death; we have just remembered millions of deaths.  And if there is eternal life we want part of it.

On that day when we die and are asked whether we have led a good enough life to deserve heaven, none of us can say yes. None of us.  Yet heaven will be full.  It will be full because of the person who we celebrate on another day of remembrance – Christmas Day.

Jesus Christ, son of God, crucified.  A single act in history which allows anyone who in their hearts wishes for it to repent and receive forgiveness.  Our active and passive selfish, greedy, hard-hearted and unloving actions deserve death, but we are allowed eternal life because of that one great sacrifice made on our behalf.  It is our choice – death, or humble acceptance of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and life. To trample the cross, or to embrace it.

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The end of sacrifice

As we approach the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day at the end of the War to end all Wars, we remember the sacrifice of so many.

The soldiers did not only make the sacrifice, they were the sacrifice.  They were sacrificed by the leaders of the nations on the altar of greed and power.

“They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn”

is a message of hope about those who were sacrificed.  They are at peace, at rest; we grow old and weary.  We can take comfort that they no longer have to suffer as we continue to suffer.

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them”

helps us to mourn and remember those who are no longer with us.

Yet the sacrifice continues. Will we not learn?

Wars and famine continue.  Leaders send men and women to fight for ‘us’ against ‘them’. Leaders stoke the fires of self-interest, burning the shoots of love from our hearts.

Even in peace, the weak and poor are sacrificed to the same altar, shot not with bullets but with job losses and cuts.  Those without the power are those who continue to be sacrificed.

It is all meaningless without what comes at the end.  Here is the true hope for us all.

“But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.”

Jesus forgive us, we don’t know what we are doing.  Change our hearts and fit us for heaven, the end of sacrifice.

Amen

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Corbyn: A gift from God

In December 2013 I wrote a post “Austerity is working?” prompted by a headline in The Sunday Times “Austerity is Working”.  Things have got worse since then on many counts, but one prophecy has been fulfilled:  In my post I wrote

“It’s time for a new politics.  It’s time for another Mandela, or Gandhi; time for a statesman not a politician.  The nation waits, but where is such a leader to be found?”

In January 2015 Jeremy Corbyn was one of 16 signatories to an open letter to Ed Miliband calling for Labour to make a commitment to opposing further austerity

In September 2015 Jereby Corbyn won a landslide victory to become leader of the opposition.

Corbin is a variation of the Hebrew Korban, which means any gift given by God and dedicated back to Him.

Korban is mentioned once in the Bible, by Jesus in Mark chapter 7 shortly before the phrase “‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them.   For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’

Jesus tells us that “By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

The Apostle Paul wrote that “ the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

A recent article in the New Statesman mentioned that “it should be remembered that the stories of Jeremy Corbyn’s courtesy and kindness are true: he will often make tea for even the most transitory of interns. Successive Islington organisers have plenty of euphemisms – “Corbyn Mean Time”, “the Jeremy tax” – for the amount of time he will take to find out about the health of each and every person he meets when knocking on doors. It’s true, too, that his sense of loyalty to those who have stuck by him has protected more than one underperforming shadow cabinet minister from the sack. But – and this is important – Corbyn’s kindness isn’t the same as softness or stupidity. His image as a cross between the Werther’s Original Grandpa and Clement Attlee obscures a streak of ruthlessness. When he feels that people have been disloyal, he is perfectly capable of action: just ask any of the shadow cabinet ministers he has sacked.”

As I mentioned Jesus tells us that “By their fruit you will recognise them.”

The Conservative government has chosen to cut public services for almost a decade now.  Public services face real-terms spending cuts of up to 40% in decade to 2020: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/nov/22/public-services-face-real-terms-spending-cuts-of-up-to-40-in-decade-to-2020   The political policy of austerity has inflicted hardship on the poorest in society, whilst the richest have needed to make no change to their standards of living.

I don’t think I need to explain the conclusion from these facts. I will let them speak for themselves.

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How to dry your clothes – a comparison of tumble drying methods.

I’ve been investigating tumble dryers to see which is most environmentally friendly. Surprisingly, I’ve not found a good comparison of the basic types, so here’s mine.

There are three main types of tumble dryer: vented, condensing and heat pump. And then there are washer dryers, which combine a washing machine and a condensing dryer.

Rather than looking at brands, colours and gadgetry, let’s look at some basics.

  • Heat is needed to dry the clothes.  This generate humid air that contains that heat energy.
  • Condensing and heat pump dryers both use cool air from outside the tumble dryer to condense the water from the humid air. The heat in the humid air is transferred into the air from outside the dryer, and so heats up the house.
  • Heat pumps are more efficient than heating elements for generating the temperatures to evaporate the water on your clothes and so will use less electricity than condensing driers.  But it will also heat up the house less.
  • Vented dryers and washer dryers (which are an inefficient form of condensing drier) both discard the heat from the humid air outside the house. That’s OK in summer, but in winter that is wasted energy that could be heating your home and saving on heating fuel bills.
    • The vented dryer throws it away via the vent pipe.
    • The washer dryer is worse, it takes in fresh cold water, heats it up with the humid air from drying the clothes and then throws it away down the drain. i.e. it throws the heat away and it wastes lots of water.
  • Vented dryers also suffer from the high likelihood of the vent pipe coming loose and flooding the room with very humid air, often causing mould growth when undetected.

So:

If you heat your house in winter, both vented dryers and washer driers are throwing away heat that you then have to provide with your heating system.  i.e. they are wasteful.

Washer dryers not only waste heat, but they waste water too.

If you heat your house with electricity there is no benefit in winter from a heat pump dryer, as the energy saved in the dryer must be added by your electrical heater.  But it will save you energy in the summer (but why not dry your clothes outside in the summer?)

So, my conclusion is that although heat pump dryers will be marginally better from a total energy usage point of view, the extra complexity is probably not worth it and a condensing dryer is probably the best choice.

And in the summer, use a washing line or internal drying rack.  The internal drying rack has the advantage that the drying of the clothes will actually cool the surrounding air like a primitive air conditioning system.

Image from http://worldartsme.com/

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Corbyn’s enemies shoot themselves in the foot

via Corbyn’s enemies shoot themselves in the foot

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The simple change to government budgeting rules that could solve the housing problem

In 1980 the Conservative government introduced the right to buy council houses.  The rules were that half the proceeds of the sales were paid to the local authorities, but they were restricted to spending the money to reduce their debt until it was cleared. They were not allowed to spend it on building more homes. The houses sold at up to 50% discount and so only a fraction of the sale price went to the local authority at best.

The arrangement effectively put an end to the building of new council housing.

Today, the shortage of housing available to local authorities means that many people in need of housing are not helped at all (too low on the priority list), and others are put in expensive emergency private sector accommodation.   The cost to the nation is appalling.

There is a clear local authority business case for providing council housing – it generates income that will more than cover the costs.  Capital could be borrowed to finance construction, generating more revenues and reducing the need for such drastic cuts in other services to balance budgets.

But why would a local authority borrow millions to buy or construct new council housing when there is a high chance that in a few years the tenant will buy it at a discount and the sale revenues will go straight to central government?  The business case is destroyed at a stroke!

A simple change that allows all the proceeds of a ‘right to buy’ sale to be retained by the local authority would turn the business case around and initiate the essential program of building new social housing, solving the housing problem and generating extra revenue for local authorities.

Why has this change not already happened?  I can only think that it is the Conservative ideology of private ownership that prevents this simple change.  Without new council housing stock, tenants are forced to rent from private landlords with high rents set by supply and demand – exacerbated by the housing shortage.

The people of this country are better than this.  If this government won’t change then we need a change of government.

If you agree then please sign this petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/209072

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Christmas – the start of a tragedy?

We have just celebrated Remembrance Day, and we are in the lead up to another day  of remembering an event that modern philosophy would view as tragic.  Jesus Christ was born specifically with the deliberate destiny of dying a horrific death by crucifixion.  The culmination of his life’s purpose was to die, painfully and alone.  And yet Christmas is a joyful event celebrating his birth.  And his life was not tragic, nor heroic, but marvellous and loving.

At first sight this does not make sense, but only if we come at the event with the wrong assumptions.  To make sense we need to grasp that:

  • This was God himself choosing to become human, living as we live, suffering as we suffer, and importantly, doing himself what was required rather than imposing on another.
  • To do this, God must care deeply about us
  • Suffering is not necessarily bad. It can be necessary to achieve the best
  • Death is not the end, but a doorway to something better
  • It is not possible for us to live a perfect life
  • God / Jesus chose to die to allow us to forgive ourselves for our past, and to choose to live his way … even if it may lead to what the world sees as hardship and suffering

There is so much more that we need to learn, that we have forgotten in this modern age.  Use this Christmas to begin your journey of discovery.

 

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Making decisions as a community

Often we have to make decisions as a community; a family, a nation, a team.  How do we go about it?  Usually we will simply ask “what do you think we should do?”  And then we will argue against the other person’s proposal.   When the decision is finally made there is conflict and resentment from those who suggested doing something else.  The results of this approach can be extremely damaging.

For instance, the government ask “do you want to leave the EU?”  Half of us say yes and half of us say no, and so half of us are very upset that we have not been listened to.  The nation is split in two.

Or a local authority will make a proposal to close Children’s Centres and then ask people’s opinion on the proposal, calling it a consultation.  But it is simply a consultation on whether you like the proposal or not.  The consultation doesn’t lead to a better solution, but just to anger from those who will be harmed by the proposal.

The steps we go through, probably unconsciously, when we decide something for ourselves can be summarised as:

  1. What is a the problem
  2. What are the alternative solutions
  3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each
  4. What do we want to do

But when we try to make decisions as a community our normal approach is:

  1. What do you want to do?
  2. I don’t want to do that, but this.

We end up arguing, simply because trying to decide something without even knowing what problem we are trying to solve.

In both of the examples above, the process could have been different.

For example, the question could have been “What factors are important in deciding whether to remain in the EU, and how important do you think each factor is?”

With the results of this consultation, the government could have framed a proposal for how to deal with the different issues, explained the proposal and the reasoning used to get to it, and then (if necessary) asked for agreement to proceed.  In essence this is requiring the government to carry out ‘completed staff work’ (http://govleaders.org/completed-staff-work.htm) before submitting a proposal for approval.  If they have done their work well, the conclusion would simply need our approval.

Try this approach in your community.  Let me know if it helps.

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More than a General Election

8th June 2017 was so much more than just a General Election.  I am writing this on June 9th with a joyful heart.  I give thanks that Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Patience, Goodness and Self Control are not dead. But I am also aware that neither are hatred, anguish, fear, selfishness, aggression, betrayal, impatience, evil and knee-jerk responses.

The things on the first list are “the fruit of the spirit”, those on the second list are natural human responses to situations.  We have all experienced both lists – giving and receiving – and we know that the first list brings life, the second brings despair.

I have learned that the first list is not just fruit of the spirit, it is God within us– whether we recognise it as him or not.  God is love, and love is God.  God is joy and joy is God….  When we experience love, we are experiencing God.

The second list describes the absence of God.  Hatred is the absence of love, anguish is the absence of peace…

Yesterday showed that God is still present in us.  But it also showed that we can behave in very selfish ways. Many of us have selfish habits and responses that we cannot control, and think that we cannot get rid of.  Believe me, we can conquer them! Talk to me privately if you want to know more.

Politics is important, but much of politics is about making the best of a bad job.  It is about managing a dysfunctional society which tends to the natural human response.  But I have a great hope.  I hope that we can bring transformation to society.  Let us strive to exercise and experience Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Patience, Goodness and Self Control.  Let us choose God within us.

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Terror attacks

These murderers were once normal people like you and me.  But they have been corrupted by allowing the seed of hatred to grow and fester in their hearts.  They have turned from all that is good.

We must not and cannot allow that same seed of hatred to take root in our hearts.

We must not look at our neighbours of different skin, different religion or different political beliefs and allow hatred to grow in our hearts.

The only revenge that we must take is not to become as they are.

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